This interview was originally published in the October 1995 issue of Playboy magazine.
*Editor’s Note: *Every Monday we ask Playboy’s Facebook followers to vote on which Playboy Interview to pull from the archives and post online the following Friday. Follow Playboy on Facebook and tell us which interview you want to see next.
“I’m 24 years old. Anybody older than me knows they were saying bitch before I was born. And fuck and dick. I didn’t make that shit up. If I did, I mean, damn, give me some money! That’s creative shit.”
“We’ve tried it both ways. They killed Martin, they killed Malcolm. You got two black folk representing us through the Sixties. One of them was for violence, one was against and they both are dead. What is that saying?”
“If I had been a straight-A student my whole life and rapped about Jesus coming back to save us all, I wouldn’t get no media. The motherfuckers wouldn’t give a fuck about me. But since I’m telling the truth, I’m a threat.”
In Los Angeles, as in most other cities, shootings among young black men on the street are all too common – and all too often ignored by the media. But at least one murder trial scheduled for the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building promised to be different. The crime itself was commonplace, but this time it was one of the defendants who was making news.
That defendant was Calvin Broadus, and he was charged with murder and conspiracy and as an accessory after the fact. That’s not why reporters showed up in force. It’s because Broadus is best known as rap star Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Snoop was accused of driving to a park in the Palms district of Los Angeles, where his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, allegedly shot and killed Philip Woldermariam, who reportedly had been a member of a gang called the By Yerself Hustlers.
Dogg, his bodyguard and a friend also charged in the murder claimed they were innocent because Woldermariam went for his pistol first, forcing Lee to shoot in self-defense. But the district attorney contended otherwise. The criminal trial could influence the outcome of a $25 million lawsuit brought against Dogg by Woldermariam’s parents, who accused him of benefiting from their son’s death. The victim’s sister told the press, “Snoop’s career has gone very far because of this murder. He’s being portrayed as a hero. I’ve heard it said, ‘Snoop doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.’”
Whether Dogg is guilty or not, his career took off following the killing. Doggystyle has sold 4.5 million copies, generating more than $40 million. He was nominated for a long list of music awards – including a Grammy and an American Music Award – and he won Soul Train’s best rap album honors. His record debuted at number one, passing releases by Pearl Jam and Aerosmith. And Dogg’s soulful raps have earned raves. A reviewer for the Los Angeles Times wrote: “No rapper has ever occupied a beat the way Snoop does, sliding around corners, lounging on the syncopations, slipping into the cracks and crevices of the grooves.” At 24 years old, he seems unstoppable – if he doesn’t wind up in jail.
Of course, rappers have been in trouble with the law since the South Bronx days of Lovebug Starski. In 1991 Slick Rick Walters received three to ten years for the attempted murder of his cousin. Dasean Cooper, a.k.a. J-Dee of Da Lench Mob, is serving 29 years to life for the murder of his girlfriend’s male roommate. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy has served three months in jail for firing a gun at a neighbor. Tupac Shakur, one of Snoop’s closest friends, was convicted of sexual abuse and is serving a one-to-four-year sentence.
Rap, the most influential musical movement of the past two decades, grew from neighborhoods where violence pervaded. But a branch of the music that emerged from the West Coast in the late Eighties, dubbed gangsta rap, was the most explicitly brutal music ever. It made headlines when it hit the mainstream with such songs as N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police.” Police organizations and groups such as the National Political Congress of Black Women and the People’s Coalition condemned gangsta rap music. Many radio stations across the country refused to play it. More recently, Senator Bob Dole went on the attack, linking rap with violence and casual sex. Soon thereafter, Time Warner took the controversial step of axing the executive at the corporation’s music division who was rap’s biggest supporter. The controversies don’t seem to hurt record sales, however. Rap now accounts for $800 million in revenue a year. Almost two thirds of gangsta rap recordings are bought by whites.
When N.W.A., the seminal gangsta rap group, split up, its members went on to successful solo careers. Ice Cube starred in John Singleton’s movie Boyz N the Hood; Eric Wright, Eazy-E, had a hit solo record before he died of AIDS earlier this year. Dr. Dre’s debut, The Chronic, remained in Billboard’s top ten for 28 weeks. It went triple platinum and became the biggest selling rap record ever. Most of the writing and rapping on The Chronic was done by Snoop, then an unknown kid from Long Beach, California. Dr. Dre signed him to Death Row Records, the label he founded. Dre’s choice was rewarded when Snoop released his debut album, Doggystyle, which went double platinum. The booming bass line and infectious choruses belie the raw lyrics. “Murder Was the Case,” a song recorded with Tha Dogg Pound, is an eerily powerful mood piece about Snoop’s own death in a drive-by shooting. It was made into a short film directed by Dre and starring Snoop. The album’s biggest hit, “Gin and Juice,” has an infectious melody behind lyrics about getting high.
Snoop was born in 1971 on the east side of Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. He is the middle child between two half brothers and was raised by his mother, who gave him his nickname. Both his father and stepfather were only intermittently involved in his life.
As a boy, Snoop’s world centered on Golgotha Trinity Baptist Church. He played piano and sang in the choir. He played basketball and Pop Warner football and was a class clown, rapping at lunchtime for an audience that continued to grow. Eventually church became less of an influence than the local gang, the Long Beach Insane Crips.
Barely one month after his graduation from high school, Snoop was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover agent. He served a year in jail. Upon his release, he decided to concentrate on rapping, but he went back to jail for several months for violating his probation, and he was arrested two more times for gun possession.
In the back of a friend’s record store, Snoop made rap tapes under his new stage name, Doggy Dogg. His life began to change when one wound up in the hands of Dr. Dre. Their first collaboration – Dre creates and produces the music tracks and Snoop does the rhymes and rapping – was the title song for the movie “Deep Cover.” It went to number one on the rap charts. Then came Dre’s album, followed by Snoop’s solo debut.
Despite Snoop’s success, there was more controversy, particularly after the Woldermariam shooting. When Snoop was in London in February 1994 for a performance, The Daily Star ran the headline KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT! In an article about the shooting, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News observed, “While Simpson’s selling power withered after he was accused of killing his ex-wife and her friend, Snoop Dogg’s marketability has been enhanced by the murder charges against him.” A Newsweek cover story asked: “When is rap too violent?”
We sent Contributing Editor David Sheff, whose last Playboy Interview was with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, to talk with Snoop. Here is his report:
“Since the murder, Snoop has given few interviews. None of them were in-depth. His lawyer wouldn’t allow questions about details of the case, but his friends are free with their opinions. Snoop is being framed, they say. Woldermariam, they claim, had stalked and threatened Snoop in the past. When he drew a gun to shoot Dogg, the bodyguard just did his job. The district attorney, of course, lays out a far different scenario.
"Snoop lives with his fiancée, Chanté, and two-year-old son, Cordé, in a house in Claremont, California. Our first meeting was at the Beverly Hills Ritz Hotel, where he and his family were staying in a penthouse suite. He had a shadow mustache, a sparse goatee, a gold stud in his left ear, braids in his hair and a spinning pyramid ring on one of his fingers. He wore the colors of the Crips: blue sneakers, blue sweats and a UCLA Bruins football jersey. We began talking over a roomservice lunch, which was a disappointment to Snoop, who wanted chicken tenders with fries. Because that wasn’t an option, he settled for a patty melt, well done, on white bread. 'Oh,’ he added, 'and give me a big-ass soda.’
"Lunch arrived, but Snoop merely played with his meal. When asked if something was wrong, he poked at the burger. 'Nasty as fuck, cuz,’ he said. 'Red meat hanging out of this shit. I like that meat panfried, well done. I gotta get some Burger King and shit.’
"He got his Burger King delivered the next day to a recording studio in the San Fernando Valley, where he was helping his friends, Tha Dogg Pound, record some tracks for their latest album, Dogg Food. Cigar-long joints circulated. After the basic beat was on tape, more tracks were recorded and more joints made the rounds. Snoop and some of the other rappers silently moved into various corners, where they sat in chairs, huddled over pads of paper. They wrote feverishly. The music was relentless, the room thick with smoke. The beat and the smoke were backdrops to the inspiration – the rappers scribbling notes. It felt strangely churchlike.
"The interview began with a discussion of the violence from which gangsta rap sprang.”
Playboy: Have you been shot at before?
Dogg: Plenty times.
Playboy: How? In drive-by shootings?
Dogg: Drive-bys, walk-bys. It ain’t like that Boyz N the Hood shit. It’s worse. In the movie, you know it’s going to come, because of the music or the scene before. On the streets you don’t get scenes. You could be hanging out, holding your baby – you know what I’m saying? And talking to your mama, and a car will ride up real slow. You ain’t even paying attention, and they serve y'all. You, your baby and your mom.
Playboy: So innocent bystanders are fair game.
Dogg: Shit, yes. If you’re trying to get somebody and this might be the only time you’re going to catch him, but he is holding his baby and with his mama, you ain’t gonna let that chance go by. That’s the mentality of the streets. If you let that chance go by, he might catch your ass. That’s the way we are brainwashed. Instead of jumping out of the car without the gun and talking to him, you have to shoot.
Playboy: What would happen if someone tried that, if he got out of the car to talk?
Dogg: He’d be shot. Instant.
Playboy: Simply because he’s in a different gang?
Dogg: Motherfuckers die for crazy reasons. That’s why you have to ask yourself, What is heaven and what is hell? I think this is hell, where we’re living.
Playboy: You’ve twice been arrested for carrying guns. Did everyone in your neighborhood carry guns?
Dogg: Not everybody. Everybody doesn’t have access to one, or the money to get one.
Playboy: How about you?
Dogg: Why do people carry guns? Protection, right? To protect me and myself. Whether it’s home protection or street protection.
Playboy: Not all people use guns for protection – often they’re for perpetrating crimes.
Dogg: For some. But, mostly, you view the perils and you know you can be a target. That’s this life.
Playboy: You seem fairly accepting of guns and violence.
Dogg: When I was a small boy, if we had a problem, we would fight about it with our fists. I thought that made more sense – it showed something about you. We wouldn’t shoot somebody, killing them or wounding them. That’s not hard to do. I would like people to put down the guns. If you have a problem, talk about it or fight about it.
Playboy: Yet you’ve glamorized guns by posing with them in photos.
Dogg: It wasn’t glamorizing or glorifying. It was just something I was asked to do. I wouldn’t do it again, except if I do a movie and play an Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Playboy: Are you carrying a gun now?
Playboy: When did you see your first shooting?
Dogg: When the family moved to north Long Beach from the east side, when I was 15. That’s when I started seeing real gangsta shit. I had motherfuckers getting shot, shooting at me. Getting robbed. Drug deals. Prostitution. I started seeing that shit hands-on. It wasn’t just, “Oh yeah. Little Johnny got killed down the street the other night.” It was like, pow, pow, pow, pow. Oh shit! Motherfuckers crying and shit because some of their people just got smoked. One time I had a deuce five. Me and two other homeboys had that motherfucker sitting in the trash can in case the police came. We were between these buildings, just sitting around. So, a car drove by, right? It hit the corner real slow. I’m closest to the gun. I see the car creeping around the corner. But instead of grabbing the gun, I’m like, “Fuck that.” I say, “These motherfuckers are going to blast.” We get up and run instead of grabbing the gun. I almost got killed. But if I would have gone for that gun, I would have been killed.
Playboy: Did you learn anything from that experience?
Dogg: Motherfucker don’t need a gun. He needs his smarts.
Playboy: What were they retaliating for?
Dogg: I shot a motherfucker in the head with a BB gun by accident. I had just bought a little BB gun. You know how you pump it up and shoot. Pow! I was just shooting. And the motherfucker hit the guy on the cheek. He went and got his homeboys and said I had shot at him or something.
Playboy: After you got away, did they come after you again?
Dogg: Hell yeah! It’s not like they get only one try. [Laughs] Doesn’t go like that. Numerous occasions.
Playboy: What’s it like growing up with that constant threat?
Dogg: You’re always ready.
Playboy: You must have been afraid.
Dogg: Shit yes, you’re afraid.
Playboy: Now you have a son. How has that affected the way you live?
Dogg: And I’m going to have another one. It makes you think. We have to be good fathers to our babies, so we can put a stop to that pattern. Now people think it’s cool to have a baby, but it ain’t cool to take care of it. We have to change that. You make your life for that baby. That’s the future.
Playboy: Why is it cool to have babies but not cool to take care of them?
Dogg: Sex was around before we got here. It wasn’t something that was taught to us. Nobody said, “If you have a baby, you’ll need money to take care of it.” Nobody said there wasn’t going to be any money there for it. In Bel Air and Beverly Hills, 90 percent of the babies get taken care of. In the ghettos, it’s 15 percent. Kids don’t learn. It starts in the home. A mother and father or no father or mother. Nobody lays out a foundation of how shit is supposed to be. The pattern goes on.
Playboy: Does fatherhood make you more careful? Do you take better care of yourself to make sure you’re around for your son?
Dogg: I really don’t do anything to break myself. As far as the damages to my body, I’m not a drinker. I let the gin and juice alone.
Playboy: This comes from the writer of “Gin and Juice”?
Dogg: You won’t hear any more alcohol songs from Snoop Dogg – unless I stumble upon some Hennessy.
Playboy: Clearly you think marijuana is different.
Dogg: It ain’t for bad, it’s for good. I take good care of myself. [Laughs]
Playboy: Beyond alcohol or drugs, do you think you will be able to stay out of trouble, either with the police or with gangs?
Dogg: Trouble comes looking for you. Lots of times I just stay in the house and enjoy my family. I try to be a father to my child. I’ll stay out of trouble if I can, because I have lots to do. Other folks have different hardships. It’s hard for a black man to raise a family.
Playboy: What makes it hard?
Dogg: Finances are a big pressure. Welfare ain’t shit anymore, and they’re cutting it. So if mama can’t do it with the father, she’s damn sure not going to do it by herself – unless she takes some illegal means of making money.
Playboy: Are financial problems the main reason that many ghetto families split up?
Dogg: Face it: If he has no job and she has no job, and she lives with her mother and baby, and there are no diapers, no milk and his only means of getting money is through drugs, and her only means of getting money is through the county or drugs, it will all break down, and nobody will give a fuck. If they have an argument because he’s not able to do for her, he’s gone. The kid’s father is nowhere to be found. Yet nobody cares.
Playboy: Nobody cares?
Dogg: Nobody cared about the riot until they thought it might spill into their nice neighborhoods. Then they got scared and called the National Guard. When it was in my hood, the police didn’t give a fuck. When the looting was going on, the police ran right past. You saw it on TV: Everybody was running out of the stores and the police weren’t doing shit. But when it spread to Beverly Hills, the police started beating motherfuckers. We got smart. We backed up before too many of us got hurt.
Playboy: Were you in South Central during the riot?
Playboy: Doing what?
Dogg: I move with the time. Whatever’s happening in time, I’m in.
Playboy: Meaning what?
Dogg: I was there. Trust me, I was there.
Playboy: Did you loot or fight?
Dogg: I was there. I wasn’t a negative cause, I was a positive cause. Because that movement wasn’t negative. It was a positive move to show that we’re not going for this shit anymore.
Playboy: Do you think the riot had an impact?
Dogg: Yes, it did. But now it’s forgotten, because everything is back to normal again. We don’t know what to do about it, so we try it both ways. They killed Martin, they killed Malcolm. You got two black folk representing us through the Sixties. One of them was for violence, one was against it, and they both are dead. What is that saying?
Playboy: What is that saying to you?
Dogg: That’s saying America doesn’t give a fuck about a black motherfucker. Nigger, you’re outta here when we say you’re outta here. That’s it.
Playboy: Yet Malcolm X was killed by black men.
Dogg: It doesn’t matter how they do it. They do it. They pull you down, they set you up, they arrest you.
Playboy: In your case, for murder.
Dogg: They find some way to bring you down.
Playboy: It’s always “they.” Don’t you feel any personal responsibility when you or your friends get in trouble?
Dogg: If I had been a straight-A student my whole life and had rapped about Jesus coming back to save us all, I wouldn’t get no media. The motherfuckers wouldn’t give a fuck about me. But since I’m telling the truth, and been through what I’m stressing and know what I’m talking about, I’m a threat. Because the motherfuckers have to respect the fact that this motherfucker knows what they know, but has a little more power than they do. That makes them feel I’m a threat, the same way Malcolm and Martin were. They had control of the whole black race. One side or the other, whether you were with Malcolm or with Martin, you were with the black race. Now there ain’t any unity out there. Ain’t no one motherfucker who could just call those shots. But the motherfuckers with power knock them down, so they can’t use that power.
Playboy: In your case, whether your bodyguard shot in self-defense or not, there was no outside force getting you in trouble. It was black men against other black men.
Dogg: So many people representing different sections of our community are taken down one way or another. The system was designed to break us down. You think it isn’t true? The three-strike rule is to break down a black man. How are you going to say a motherfucker committed three crimes and you have to give him 25 to life? OK, on the fourth time he might not even want to commit that crime.
Playboy: Americans want repeat offenders to be behind bars. Do you understand their fears?
Dogg: That’s not giving no love. Black folks don’t have a chance, so they are in the hood, dealing drugs, in a shoot-out. They do it again and one more time they are out. Those in charge are going back to your juvenile record. If you have two felonies as a juvenile, those count. You need only one more strike as an adult and you’re through. This is a way to get rid of more of us – the ones who ain’t already dead because they are shooting each other. They are building more jails in California. What about building more schools in our neighborhoods? Like Ice Cube asks, “Why are more niggers in the pen than in college?” It’s easier to go to the pen than it is to go to college. The media created the buzz of rap being so terrible, but terrible is the ghetto shit we write about. We put it in their faces. Motherfuckers losing their lives. The fucked-up system. They don’t want to hear it.
Playboy: So they kill the messenger.
Dogg: Exactly. Because it happens whether we rap about it or not. But when we rap about it, and their children are listening, it’s right in their faces.
Playboy: Does being a messenger make you a target?
Dogg: It does. A target from outside or inside the community, because you have someone working inside for the outside. They got house niggers they give drugs and money to, and they got their agents in our community, and they bring in guns. But I was sent to do this by God, so he’s not going to put anything on me I can’t handle. If death comes to me, that’s what he wants me to have. For now, he wants me to keep building and passing on his message. That’s what I’m going to do, because I’m destined to live and say things.
Playboy: There’s a growing reaction in the black community against gangsta rap. Some black radio stations won’t play your music.
Dogg: I sold 4 million records without them. They’re hurting themselves. It’s old white ladies, old black ladies, old black men, who don’t even listen. Everyone else, everyone who understands, likes Snoop Dogg. They like my music.
Playboy: The National Political Congress of Black Women says the music is “obscene and degrading,” and that anything encouraging violence or misogyny or using profanity shouldn’t be allowed.
Dogg: Do what you feel is right, baby. Do what your heart tells you is right. Because I’m going to keep doing what I do. People like it or they wouldn’t buy.
Playboy: How do you respond to Bob Dole’s more recent criticisms of rap?
Dogg: Here we are, up from what we were. We’re trying to make some money, to speak about our lives and make better lives for ourselves. They want to keep us down, is all. If Dole looks at what’s really responsible for the problems in this country, he’ll find it’s not rap. Rap is music. He should look in the mirror and see.
Playboy: Because of pressure from Senator Dole and others, there are rumors that Time Warner, which distributes Death Row Records, will stop putting out gangsta rap.
Dogg: We are just doing our music. Nothing has changed. We’ll see if they can stop it when the people want to hear it.
Playboy: There have been stickers on your records that warn about your language. Does that bother you?
Dogg: I think it’s good. Then people know what they get. No one should be shocked after that. You were warned, you bought it. If you don’t like these words, go get some gospel shit, or jazz shit or some whiter shit.
Playboy: But most of the people who buy your music are white.
Dogg: Yeah. When I was on MTV, for instance, the whole audience was white. If you look at the tape, everybody in the audience was grooving like a motherfucker. They were dancing, rhythmic, because they weren’t paying attention to what the older folks were saying. They weren’t giving a fuck. They are enjoying life, like I do. And they are listening. They want to know what’s happening, too.
Playboy: What’s the impact on young black girls when they hear you and other rappers singing about women being bitches and whores?
Dogg: Those who are, are. Those who aren’t, aren’t. Those words were here before I was here. America made those words, I didn’t. I’m 24 years old. Anybody older than me knows they were saying bitch before I was born in 1971. And fuck and dick. I didn’t make up that shit. If I did, I mean, damn, give me some money! Because that’s creative shit. But the bitches and whores are the ones who come up to your hotel room, because they know you are making money, and after you get down and do what you’re going to do, all of a sudden they get a rape case, and you end up in the pen. Like Mike Tyson, like Tupac.
Playboy: Do you believe that Mike Tyson was innocent?
Dogg: Shit, yeah. I love Mike Tyson.
Playboy: And Tupac Shakur, too?
Dogg: They want to take him down, but he has more of a following now that he is slammed down. More people are behind him now. All they are doing is helping him as far as when he gets out. They are putting him through hell right now, as far as life. It’s something he’s always known. Listen to his lyrics. He tells about this, about the system. He knows the way it’s designed.
Playboy: How do you feel about his conviction for sexually abusing a woman?
Dogg: What is that? If a motherfucker wants to have sex with you, she is going to have sex with you. There’s no such thing as abuse. She was liking it when it happened. After she left the room, she started to see that she could get money.
Playboy: She apparently didn’t like it at all.
Dogg: I believe Tupac. I know that a motherfucker won’t be lying in New York, fucking the shit out of a bitch and just leaving her hanging. He probably was enjoying himself with her, and he probably was finished. One of the homes probably came in and she didn’t know how to act and ran out of the room. If it was rape, it was rape. If it was sex abuse, that means she wanted it, or she didn’t want it that way.
Playboy: What if he hurt her?
Dogg: He didn’t hurt anybody. If he did, he’ll pay. But they won’t stop him. Wait until his next record. It will be huge. I have some shit that we did together that nobody’s heard.
Playboy: How about you? Are you worried you’ll be convicted?
Dogg: No. I trust the juries, I trust my attorney, I trust God. The fact is, the truth will come out. The truth will come out when it’s time.
Playboy: And what if you are convicted?
Dogg: He has a reason. I go with the time.
Playboy: Do you acknowledge that your music is a powerful influence on young people? The way you sing “Walking down the street smoking endo, sipping on gin and juice” makes it sound very inviting.
Dogg: They listen because it sounds good. Fuck what I’m saying. I didn’t make up those words.
Playboy: You put them together, you made the rhymes.
Dogg: You’re saying that those kids are going to smoke and drink because of that song, and not smoke and drink because of no song. That’s not how it works. Hugh Hefner doesn’t give a fuck about a motherfucker saying he glorifies sex. Why should I give a fuck about what a motherfucker feels about me glorifying life or violence? I’m living like Hugh right now.
Playboy: What has been the effect of how the media have written about you?
Dogg: My people still love me. Some of them are scared, because they don’t know what to believe. I don’t speak much on a whole lot of shit. People who don’t know me are so negative about me. When they finally meet me, they change that negative into a positive. I trip off that shit.
Playboy: You’ve also been criticized by other rappers for leaving the hood.
Dogg: I never went through the hood and said, “Damn! When I make a lot of money, I’m going to buy that house right there!” I always wanted to get out of that shit and have a nice home where I wouldn’t have to worry about gunshots. Growing up, I didn’t dream of being nothing, of living in the ghetto my whole life. I wanted to get out. I’m not trying to run from the hood, I’m just trying to have expectations and goals to get the finer things in life. That’s all. Because I am still going through the hood.
Playboy: Do you need to be careful not to lose touch with your roots because of your fame and money?
Dogg: There’s no such thing as losing touch. You can take me out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of me.
Playboy: How important is rapping in the ghetto?
Dogg: It was the way out for me. I’ve rapped since I was a boy. First I would just say other raps and put my name in. Then I was getting to the point where I didn’t want to recite anyone else’s words. I wanted to do my own shit. When a beat came along, I just started rapping. I was rapping against other motherfuckers at the time. Everybody was running up on me, like, “Damn, Snoop, that’s tight.”
Playboy: What rappers did you listen to?
Dogg: Whodini. Grandmaster Flash, Sugar Hill Gang. All that shit.
Playboy: Did you listen to other kinds of music?
Dogg: Back then I was rapped out. I tried to break-dance. I couldn’t break-dance. Tried to hop. I couldn’t hop. I was all right, but I wasn’t tight like the other motherfuckers. They could bust nine spins, but I could do only two or three. So I was like, “Fuck that. I ain’t fucking with that. I’ll just rap.” Once I became dedicated to rap, no motherfucker could say a thing. I was dedicated.
Playboy: Your music is more complex than a lot of rap. Did you have any musical training?
Dogg: It’s natural. I freestyle, meaning that I just rap. I might put words on paper, but I just put a beat on my rap, and go off the top of my head. It’s something I’ve been able to do for a long time.
Playboy: Did you listen to soul singers?
Dogg: Growing up, that shit’s all we heard. Al Green and Curtis Mayfield. I’m into the soul collection. That’s inspiration to me. Dramatics, Teddy Pendergrass, Isley Brothers. Enchantments. That’s why motherfuckers say that I sing instead of rap. That’s why I got more of an R&B sound. They say my shit is gangsta shit because of the words I use. But if you listen to it, it’s R&B shit. I’m not rapping, I’m conversing. It’s just a conversation between me and you. I’m no reporter. That’s for the man with a suit and tie. I’m just relating to my people the best way I know, bringing them what they know and what they see out on the streets. I’m bringing it to them in a musical way, through a way of partying rather than violence. Now they can party their way through their problems.
Playboy: Was it difficult to stay out of gangs in your neighborhood?
Dogg: No. You can avoid that shit. Nobody comes knocking on your door, saying, “Oh, you got to be some woo-woo.” Nobody does that shit. If you associate yourself with those gang-mentality motherfuckers, you’re going to become a part of it. If you go to church every Sunday, go right in the house when you get out of school, go where you got to go, you’re straight.
Playboy: Do some people join gangs for protection?
Dogg: I don’t know anybody who joined a gang for protection. That shit doesn’t happen in my hood. You join it because you need love and family support. You need a motherfucker who can identify with what you’re going through.
Playboy: You were present when the Crips and Bloods signed their truce after the riots. How involved were you?
Dogg: I supported it. I talked to some homies.
Playboy: What did it take in order to make it happen?
Dogg: Money. They had to get something in return. OK, if we stop killing, what are we going to get? What are y'all going to do for us?
Playboy: What was the answer?
Dogg: We’re going to try to provide money and show these motherfuckers that it’s safe to put jobs here. It’s safe to build something here.
Playboy: Did the money that was promised for neighborhood improvement ever show up?
Dogg: I ain’t seen too much happen so far. They all say, “Oh boo hoo, ain’t nothing can be done about those motherfuckers.” Something can be done. They just don’t want to do it. Money, opportunity and jobs. All we ever asked for was opportunity. Just let us be equal, to do what you do. And get the money like you get. Without racism, without all the struggle, without all this negative shit.
Playboy: What does the movement away from affirmative action say to you?
Dogg: It says they don’t want us to pick ourselves up.
Playboy: If you’re right, the gangs supply “them” with more ammunition – black youths shooting one another.
Dogg: Right, but it’s the brainwash theory. Babies come out brainwashed, thinking that just because this man is from this side of town and wearing a separate color than what you are wearing, you have to fuck him up, because he killed the homey from way back. It’s just like that. I don’t know how they’re going to stop that shit, but I’m trying to be a part of the plan. If anybody does care, I’ll tell you what helps. Money helps. People who don’t have money do crazy shit. People are spending all this money on bullshit overseas – fuck overseas. We’re over here with you all.
Playboy: Did you get in a lot of trouble when you were a child?
Dogg: Uh-huh. I did the kid thing. A lot of things I was trying to do, I was trying to be grown-up. I did a lot of good shit, too. Played the piano. Sang in the choir. Church every Tuesday. Every Sunday. Bible study.
Playboy: You’ve said your mother raised you. Where was your father?
Dogg: He got a Purple Heart in Vietnam and rested for about a year. Then he became a postman. My mama had moved back to California by then. He came out here but she was with her husband. So that cut him off. I didn’t know he was my father. He used to come pick me up and shit. I was just five. When he put me in that long red Cadillac, I was like, “Where the fuck are we going?” He came to get me once a month. Who is this? Do you know what I’m saying?
Playboy: Didn’t your mother tell you he was your father?
Dogg: I wasn’t trying to hear that shit. My mom was doing everything for me.
Playboy: So you didn’t want to know.
Dogg: Until I became a teenager, then I understood. But shit, every time I got whipped, my mama whipped me, so fuck him. That’s how I was thinking back then. I was seeing him off and on.
Playboy: Wasn’t he a singer?
Dogg: [Laughs] Oh shit. Who told you that damn lie? He wasn’t a singer. He played tambourine in a band.
Playboy: What did your mother do for a living?
Dogg: She had small jobs – you know, working in cafeterias and shit. Sometimes she was on the county, sometimes she was working. She put food on the table and clothes on our backs.
Playboy: Have you been helping your mother now that you have money?
Dogg: Uh-huh. Pretty much.
Playboy: Did your father ever send any money?
Dogg: Hell no. He looked out for me later, when he could, but I don’t remember receiving much money from him that helped save the day. If he had been doing his job, I wouldn’t have sold dope.
Playboy: What about your stepfather?
Dogg: I thought that he was my father most of my life – until I got to a certain age, when I really started looking at the other man and seeing that I looked more like him. It’s complicated, this ghetto shit.
Playboy: Your real name is Calvin Broadus – but Broadus was actually your stepfather’s name, not your father’s. Is that correct?
Dogg: Exactly. He’s the man my mama married. That was before I was born. And I always thought he was my father because I had his name. He was all right. He never got on me for anything. He was good to us. He raised us like we were his kids. He did whip me one time. I remember when he whipped me. If I did something in school, got kicked out of something, my mama usually was the one who whipped me. But this time, she didn’t whip me. She said, “OK, I got something for you.” Then she called him over. I knew what he was coming over for, because him and ma went in the room to talk first. I put a book in my pants so I wouldn’t feel this shit. So he said, “All right, come into the room.” Then he said something to me that scared me like a motherfuck. He said, “C'mere. Lay on my lap.” So I lay across like right here on him, and he hit me on the back [Demonstrates]. He said, “Why does your ass feel like that?” He pulled out the book, and he was like, “Take your clothes off!” And he whipped me with my clothes off. Damn! I got caught. That was the only time he really whipped me. I was like nine or ten. I thought I was slick by putting a book in there.
Playboy: When did you find out about your real father?
Dogg: My mom and her husband fell out. It was a situation where I was getting kidnapped. He was taking me from school, and she would come and get me from him. Then he died. He died when I was in the eighth grade. That period was hard. My grandfather had died too, and me and my grandfather were close, the closest. Moms knew I was all sad. So she was just like, “Oh, your daddy’s coming down here.” And I’m like, “Didn’t he just die?” “No, your daddy’s coming down here.” And I couldn’t argue with my mama back then, not in the eighth grade. I would have got the hell knocked out of me. So here he comes. I had to ride with the punches. I figured out that shit when I was about 17. I had gone to Mississippi with him before that. In the ninth grade, I went out there for a summer to chill with him, to try to get in contact with him, to know who he was. We chilled the whole summer. He got me a job landscaping with him, made me some money. And I appreciated that. But then he tried to chastise me one time. I wasn’t going for shit. You can’t start now.
Playboy: Why was he chastising you?
Dogg: I had a gang of niggers in the house – motherfuckers that I had met out there in Mississippi. I didn’t give a fuck. I wasn’t going to be in a big-ass house by myself. So I had the homeboys come through. I was young then, and we were fucking up the house, playing football in the living room and shit, just fucking up. And he said, “Don’t make me have to – – ” I’m like, “Don’t make you have to what?” But he made me cry because I never had been checked by a man like that. Later on, my ma said, “You’re going to have to go out there to live with him, because, honey, I can’t deal with you.” I’m like, “Fuck it. I ain’t going.” He’s in Detroit now. I’m going to go out there to check it out. See, I wouldn’t want my woman to go through with my son what my mama did with me. I was blessed enough to stay alive, but I was real hardheaded. There’s a lot of shit she used to tell me, because a lot of my homeboys got killed and shit, and that affected her. It made her feel for their mamas.
Playboy: You were a good athlete in high school. Why did you give it up?
Dogg: It wasn’t making money for me and I was getting older and money was becoming important. To me, that shit – being Michael Jordan – was an unaccomplishable dream. I was like, OK, I’m going to do all this working out and shit, but then – fuck it. What if the motherfucker doesn’t make the team? Meantime, my mama couldn’t give me what I wanted. I had all right clothes, but the people I was with had better clothes. I felt that I had to have better clothes. Motherfuckers wore Nikes and shit like that, and we wore shoes from Payless. I had to have money in my pocket, see. That was just me. I guess it was attention. So I went out and got little jobs. I was selling candy as a teenager, selling newspapers. But as I got older, I didn’t want to sell that anymore. I wanted to make more money.
Playboy: How much were you making?
Dogg: I made $45, $50 a week. I worked at McDonald’s for a while, making $100 a week. But I needed more.
Playboy: More for what?
Dogg: For life. Moms couldn’t do for me anymore. She barely could do for herself. When you get to that certain age, you feel like you’re stepping from a boy to a man. When I turned 16, I thought I was a man. I needed the money. When you don’t have it, crazy thoughts go through your mind.
Playboy: Such as?
Dogg: He’s got it and I don’t. Why not take it from him? I’m bigger than him. You understand? I went to jail for what I started doing.
Playboy: For selling cocaine.
Dogg: Yeah. When I got arrested, I thought that was wrong, crazy shit. I didn’t understand. How could I go to jail for selling some drugs?
Playboy: But you knew it was illegal.
Dogg: It didn’t make sense. I didn’t make the drugs, I didn’t put them in the community. It was just a job I had. If they want to, they could take me to jail for avoiding taxes – I didn’t pay any. But don’t take me to jail for selling. I couldn’t see nothing wrong with doing what is logical to do.
Playboy: How is it logical?
Dogg: Drugs are so easy to get in the ghetto. They might not be easy to get in nice areas like Beverly Hills, but in Long Beach and Compton and South Central they’re easy to get. They don’t drop those drugs off in Beverly Hills. They drop them off in the ghetto. Then they tell us it’s wrong to sell them. Well, we didn’t bring them here. We just sell them. I was selling, like I sold newspapers. It was just a giant step from that. From $50 a week to $1000 a week.
Playboy: What were you spending your money on?
Dogg: I really wasn’t spending it. I was so busy earning more and more, trying to get bigger. Then I bought a car. I got a hotel room and some clothes. You understand, it was a program I had. I was just dedicated to making money. When the surgeon general [Joycelyn Elders] said that drugs should be legalized, I saw somebody else who felt what I feel. But she got fired.
Playboy: Why do you believe in the legalization of drugs?
Dogg: Drugs bring in guns. They bring in all these black-on-black crimes.
Playboy: If drugs were legal and you wanted to make more money, what would you have done?
Dogg: That is the question. What else is there? “Well, I’m going to go to school and get me a high school diploma and try to go to college.” You have to say “try to” because even with a high school diploma and a 4.0 GPA, there’s no college that’s automatically going to grab you and give you a scholarship. There’s certain classes you have to take, certain things you have to do, certain money you must have. Then, if you listen to the counselors and social workers and everybody else talking at you, you would think that once you got out of high school and college, life would be beautiful. But it’s not. That’s what you’re up against if you don’t want people to sell drugs. What else do you have to offer? All I knew was that I needed money. As a black man, I have to respect myself and have nice things. As a man in general. If they would have put positive opportunities in front of me to make $1000 a week, I would have done it. But they didn’t. They put $1000 in front of me and an illegal way to make it. And they expect me not to do it because they say it’s wrong. America is going to have to give something back in a major way, to where the people can say, “Well, they care about us and they’re trying to help us.” Cutting back on welfare and shit like that shows they don’t give a fuck about us.
Playboy: So it’s not about only money?
Dogg: Yeah. It’s like having nothing, no hope, nothing. Look at the way they’re letting gangs and shit go on so there is black-on-black crime and murder. What does it show? It shows they don’t give a fuck. I could show you a picture of my Pop Warner football team. There were 28 homies on that team. Twelve are dead. Seven are in the penitentiary. Three are smoked out. If they ain’t dead or in jail or smoked out, they do the gang thing, sell dope. I can’t look at that picture and say, “Well, hey, he went to college. He got a degree. Hey, that’s little Johnnie Cochran.” I can’t speak from that shit, because I don’t know nobody in that. I’m 24. To see 24 is an accomplishment. I’ve seen a lot of my homies burned.
Playboy: You finished high school. Were you tempted to drop out?
Dogg: Hell yeah. I was making money. By the time I got to 12th grade I was making $1000 a week.
Playboy: Then why did you remain in school?
Dogg: It was fun. I was popular as fuck in school. I was fun to be around. Motherfuckers loved me for my rap, they loved me because I made them laugh. Whenever I was in class, I fucked with the teachers, I fucked with the students. I wasn’t yearbook class clown or funniest person, but the motherfuckers knew me. I rapped at lunchtime and quick as fuck the crowd got bigger. The principal tried to suspend me, telling me I started a riot at the school. I said, I’m just rapping. These motherfuckers want to hear what I’m saying. So the principal said OK, you can do it.
Playboy: Were you close to your two brothers?
Dogg: Me and my big brother were close till he turned like 16 and he fell out with mom’s husband and moved out. He joined the Job Corps in Utah and became a man on his own. And I had to go through my shit on my own, without a big brother, without anybody to get on my back. When we were young, whenever I’d lose a fight, he would save the day. This one fool would whip my ass. So once he finished, my brother would come right behind him and wear his ass out.
Playboy: And how about your younger brother?
Dogg: I used to beat that nigger up. Just because I could.
Playboy: Where are they now?
Dogg: My older brother’s still in Utah. He has a little family out there. But my younger brother is in high school. We’re trying to put him in basketball.
Playboy: Are they both proud of you?
Dogg: Shit, I guess. A motherfucker can get some money from me now. [Laughs]
Playboy: Just after you graduated, you ended up in jail. Was it worse than you expected it to be?
Dogg: Exactly. A lot of homeboys in the penitentiary might get this issue of PLAYBOY – it’s in there, you know. I just want to let them know that I still support them.
Playboy: Did jail change you?
Dogg: It helped me go from a boy to a man, to start to realize what I wanted to do with myself. I couldn’t play anymore. I had to have a plan.
Playboy: Why? Because you didn’t want to end up back in jail?
Dogg: There were brothers in there who weren’t ever going to get out. I didn’t want to be in that situation. I was given a chance to bounce back, so I took it.
Playboy: What was the hardest part?
Dogg: Just living there, basically. It was harder than I expected. Being away from everybody wasn’t a big problem. Survival is key. People don’t understand that you can actually lose your life going to jail. There’s more violence in the jailhouse than there is on the streets.
Playboy: What were some problems?
Dogg: For instance, a black show came on TV. Good Times. People who ain’t black don’t want to see that shit, so they get up to turn the channel. That’s disrespect, if you ask me. You could be on the phone for ten minutes and somebody would come by and say, “phone check.” And that’s disrespect. How are you going to check me with the phone, homey? I get off the phone when I get ready. Just any little thing. Step on your shoe. Someone messes up your bunk, any little thing.
Playboy: Wasn’t it smarter not to get in fights?
Dogg: Well, it doesn’t even have to be you. It could be another brother who got into it, and the whole yard riots. You’re put in a situation by somebody else, something you didn’t even do. But when it gets to you, you have to be ready for it.
Playboy: What if you ignored it?
Dogg: They’d do something worse. It’s a respect thing in there, all the way around. You don’t get respect if you don’t deserve it.
Playboy: So you found a way to be respected?
Dogg: From rapping. I was rapping every motherfucking night. We put the mattress up and beat off a drum [Sets up a beat on the tabletop with hands, singing a bass line]. I talked about the police, about whatever the fuck was going on. Whatever we ate that day, I talked about that. I would ask them about some shit that happened in their hood, and I would put it down in rap form. They appreciate that shit and would tell other motherfuckers, “Nigger, this homeboy, he’s tight and he’ll rap for $20.” Some of that shit ended up on Dre’s album. It got to the point where these motherfuckers were saying, “Man, you got something there. Take advantage of that.” And if these motherfuckers said something to you, it’s like, you lis. These motherfuckers don’t give a fuck about your ass. If they encouraged you, you had to jump on it.
Playboy: Your big break came after jail when you hooked up with Dr. Dre. How did you meet him?
Dogg: Warren G. is my homey. He is Dre’s little brother. He was always trying to get me to rap and be with him in a group. But I never felt my writing was strong enough. Warren G. happened to take one of my tapes to Dre without me knowing it. Dre liked it and called me to the studio. He said, “I want to do something.” He was finishing up N.W.A.’s last album, Niggaz4life. Before Dre and I got fully acquainted, he had just finished that album.
Playboy: Did Dre introduce you to Eazy-E?
Dogg: I never met him through Dre.
Playboy: You had written a song that had critici